Roni Horn

Thicket No. 2

1990, reconstructed 1999

Not on display

Roni Horn born 1955
Aluminium and plastic
Displayed: 115 × 660 × 3677 mm, 594kg (297kg each sculpture)
Presented by Janet Wolfson de Botton 1996


Thicket No. 2 is a floor-based installation comprising two low, rectangular aluminium alloy slabs. These each have the word ‘TIGER’ inlaid into one of their shorter edges and are placed parallel to one other approximately 100 cm apart. The text is lime green and is presented in capital letters. The letters are all 102 mm deep and 115 mm high, with varying widths, and the top of each inlaid letter is visible from above the work, running flush with its metal surface. Both slabs are installed directly on the floor, and although their surfaces are shiny, they also feature many small scratches and imperfections. The work is always installed with its texts facing away from any entrance into the room.

This work was made by the American artist Roni Horn in 1990, when she was living and working in New York, and was reconstructed in 1999. The metal slabs are both made from 7075 aluminium alloy. Their side edges are mill-finished and their tops have been planed. The letters consist of epoxy resin that has been poured into gaps in the slabs’ edges, and peg-holes were drilled into the aluminium before pouring to help hold the resin in place. The work is always installed no less than 8 feet (2.44 metres) away from all walls in the exhibition area, and should be placed on a perfectly flat surface. The inlaid text was taken from the 1794 poem ‘The Tyger’ by the English poet William Blake (1757–1827), which begins ‘Tyger Tyger, burning bright / In the forests of the night’, although Horn changed the letter ‘y’ in the original to an ‘i’, reflecting the modern spelling of the word. Horn has also incorporated the phrase ‘TIGER TIGER’ into a similar sculpture called Blake’s Burn 1994 (private collection).

The title of this work suggests a connection with a slightly earlier work by Horn, Thicket No. 1 1989–90 (Tate T07178), which also features a metal slab with inlaid text. The word ‘thicket’ in the titles of both works could denote a dense area of bushes or trees. This reference to a natural phenomenon seems to contrast with the machine-worked metal slabs, although the reason for Horn’s use of the term does not seem clear and it may have been chosen for this mysteriously allusive quality.

Thicket No. 2 is one of many works by Horn that comprise two identical sculptural objects (see, for instance, Untitled (Flannery) 1997, Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York). Discussing these in 1989, Horn argued that they foster ‘an acute sense of circumstantial reality’ because instead of allowing each object to be viewed as a ‘thing in itself’, the ‘doubleness’ of these works means that they necessarily include ‘the space or interval’ between each component. Consequently, Horn went on to argue,

The viewer runs through a very complex narrative in real time which is the experience of the work itself … The narrative involves the recognition of uniqueness through the sequential experience of things which are identical. Then the subsequent and irreversible loss of the unique identity. Obviously the notion of being identical is a purely ideal one since when you have two things, no matter how perfect the identity, you always have a this and a that, a here and a there.
(Horn in Mimi Thompson, ‘Roni Horn’, Bomb, no.27, Summer 1999,, accessed 30 June 2015.)

The art historian Thomas Kellein has suggested that Horn may have used a text by Blake because her work, like Blake’s poetry, ‘constantly centre[s] on a physical and psychological experience of solitariness’ (Thomas Kellein, ‘Images of Solitariness’, in Roni Horn: Making Being Here Enough, Installations from 1980 to 1995, exhibition catalogue, Kunsthalle Basel, Basel 1995, p.77). This can be seen in Thicket No. 2, which prompts an examination of one’s privately experienced perceptual engagement with the sculpture, as well as in Thicket No. 1, which uses language to address the constantly implied presence in an artwork or natural setting of its creator or viewer.

However, in 2000 Horn discussed the frequent use of language in her practice in a different way, stating: ‘When developing three-dimensional work, I’ve always thought in terms of language as opposed to thinking visually … I think in terms of syntax if not quite of grammar; of phrasing, leitmotif, chorus – the tools of language structures – which then take a visual form in the work’ (Horn in Neri, Cooke and de Duve 2000, p.22). In Thicket No. 2, a sense of ‘syntax’ is implied by the relationship between the words, which can be read as a single phrase (‘TIGER TIGER’) that reflects the opening phrase of Blake’s poem. Reading the text in this way further emphasises the importance of the relationship between the two slabs, as opposed to their status as discrete objects.

Further reading
Roni Horn, exhibition catalogue, Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, Los Angeles 1990, unpaginated.
Louise Neri, Lynne Cooke and Thierry de Duve, Roni Horn, London 2000.
Roni Horn aka Roni Horn, exhibition catalogue, Tate Modern, London 2009.

David Hodge
July 2015

Supported by Christie’s.

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Display caption

Roni Horn's work is a continuation of some of the formal arguments of American Minimal art. Her concentrated, simple forms and the conception of sculpture aligned to a specific space echo such artists as Judd and Andre. However, the artist's use of language and metaphor distinguishes her work and emphasises a connection with the structures of poetry. Here, Horn uses a pair of polished aluminium rectangles and bright yellow plastic to make tangible William Blake's 'Tyger Tyger burning bright' from 'Songs of Innocence and Experience'. The poem reflects on the breadth of the act of creation and marvels at the awesome inspiration of the creator: 'What immortal hand or eye/Dare frame thy fearful symmetry?'

Gallery label, August 2004

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